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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The national park ruins of a village suddenly abandonned 300 years ago

Impressions of India: 20
I’m currently travelling for 3 months in India, through Goa, Kerala and Rajasthan, with a pretty hot and hectic schedule of boutique hotel reviews. The galleries below are my online photojournalist diary of scenes caught, people met and things found along the way. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did and am still.

Please do take a moment to log and/or e-mail me your reactions and comments and, if you're on Facebook, attend/join my Indian Adventures photo-blog cyber-event there, or become a Follower, due right on this page? The more people I know are reading and enjoying it, the more fuel it adds to my fire.

Here's a taster of the absurdly-romantic, 350-year-old haveli, Hotel Shreenath Palace, deep inside Jaisalmer Fort which made me feel like a Juliet, though without her Romeo. 
And this, below, is the abandonned village of Kudhara, one of over 80 villages deserted overnight by thousands of Paliwal Brahmins. Raj, the Hotel Shreenath Palace owner-manager who kindly took me there on the back of his motorbike, had this version as to why. 

A Rajput prince took a fancy to one of the Kudhara families' beautiful daughters. She and her family didn't share his enthusiasm, particularly in light of the rumours about the terrible injuries caused by his massive penis. So, rather than have to fight a war about it, all 80-plus villages relocated en masse, in the middle of the night, to a destination unknown. But they also apparently left a curse behind them which still scares many locals away from the village to this very day. 

Another version is that the Paliwal Brahmins, known for their benevolence, prosperity and strong sense of community, fought off a number of Mughal invasions before one particularly vicious one in the 18th century after which the Mughal leader ordered dead animals to be thrown in all their drinking wells. Hence the sudden exodus. 

It has been designated a 'national park' with a modest entrance charge, and a small army of full-time employees are slowly rebuilding and renovating the ruins to their former idiosyncratic charm. The delicately-painted decorative details, which feature on many a home in Rajasthan, remind me of Native American art. 
A view across Jaisalmer from Hotel Shreenath Palace's roof at night,
and an open-to-the-stars rooftop bedroom, again something you see a lot of in Rajasthan.
Raj's father, a government official, who ran the hotel for 30 years before handing over (most of the) control to his only son. I did mention to Raj that his father lying around in reception, sipping chai from a saucer and chewing his pan was more 'homestay' than 'boutique'. But he was a lovely, kind man who rushed off on his motorbike as Raj escorted me to my Jodhpur bus, only to reappear with 2 full plastic bags of travelling snacks for my 6-hour-journey.
Hi son Raj (below) is happily and (he says) faithfully married, with one young son, but told me he is baffled by the number of single female tourists who keep falling in love with him. He has a certain lithe intensity, and tends to sit close to you while engaging in fairly personal conversations, which could explain their mistake. I assured him there was no danger of that happening with me as I was happily coupled-up, and he seemed just a little offended.
He knew most of the men waiting around my 6pm Jodhpur bus, so introduced me while he bought my 'Indian price' ticket, and they were all keen to have their photos taken and several to experience the novelty of one of my rollies too.
Photographing their shoes made them laugh in disbelief, as to them they seemed so unremarkable. To me they're so much more exotic and graceful than Western ones that I wished I'd had room in my bags to buy his and hers pairs to bring home with me.
To be albino in India must be incredibly tough, if only because of the fierce heat, and this young man didn't seem remotely happy or at ease. He also seemed very isolated, within the crowd by the little roadside stall. 
Another gracefully-veiled lady. I really hope the majority of Indian women never swap their beautiful, rainbow-coloured saris or salwar kameez for Western-style jeans and T-shirts as their country would lose so much beauty.
A little boy, on some errand with his big plastic bag, whose look of bitter resentment, as I trained my big camera on him through the window of my 10-foot-high coach bunk, was understandable but painful to see.
And a serendipitous photographic moment nailed as we paused to pick up more passengers. 
Posts still to come before we're up-to-date: 
Jodhpur and Jaipur


  1. ah the delight of good story telling bought alive by your powerful images. so enjoyed this blog Cathy.

  2. Jenny Evans said...

    Hi Cathy, Just caught up on your blog. Some really fantastic portraits. Liked the abandoned village photos v.much. Was brought back to my time in Rajastan (some 25 years ago!) by your pictures of the Jain temples. Tx. Jenny
    PS: I have a pair of those shoes in gold, but they pinch my toes. You can try them on and see if they fit you better.

  3. Another lovely set of photographs, and illuminating narrative too, particularly the legends. Brava!

  4. It seems unlikely that deserting Brahmin villagers would admit to fleeing a man who was too well endowed for their delicate sensibilities. More plausible is that said story was invented by the man himself or his motorcycle riding, hotel owning descendant(s).

    Either way, it's a far more attractive reality than the dead animals in the wells theory. The latter may be more feasible, but so much less engaging.

    Once again, there are some lovely architectural shots here. They are overshadowed slightly by the intensity of the portraiture, specifically the small boy carrying the large plastic bag.

    Top banana.

  5. the guy in the black and white photo with the smoking looks like an indian george michael!!!